Enrollment Rises or Falls on Leadership

While there are many factors that affect enrollment, I believe that leadership is one of the most important.

During the past few weeks I have been reminded that enrollment in private schools may rise or fall on the leadership of the head of school. Through some recent on-site visits at a couple of schools, it was evident that leadership competency and transition issues contributed to their enrollment decline.

My all-time favorite book on leadership is The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. In fact, I used their leadership framework as a basis for my dissertation at Michigan State University a few years ago when I studied the leadership practice of university presidents.

In their research, they discover five practices of exemplary leaders. The following is a “taste” of these five practices:

  • Model the Way – “Modeling the way is essentially about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct individual involvement and action. People first follow the person, then the plan” (page 15).
  • Inspire a Shared Vision – “Their own enthusiasm was catching; it spread from leader to constituents” (page 16).
  • Challenge the Process –“Leaders are pioneers—people who are willing to step out into the unknown. They search for opportunities to innovate, grow and improve” (page 17).
  • Enable Others to Act – “When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive” (page 19).
  • Encourage the Heart – “It’s part of the leader job to show appreciation for people’s contributions and to create a culture of celebration” (page 19).

I believe that this is a great model for any and every school leader to follow. Whether your role is the director of admissions or the head of school, these exemplary leadership practices should define us.

These practices should be the grid through which we are evaluated and motivated.

Private schools need this type of leadership in order to move a school forward during a down economy and in a very competitive market. These five practices need to be evident in your school’s leadership to successfully grow enrollment.

Is your leadership practice affecting your enrollment?

Hopefully it’s going in the right direction.